Holy smokes Batman, it's Ryan Evans

Now that we've come down off the high of Wisconsin whipping Nebraska behind a career night from Ryan Evans, it is probably easier to rationally discuss what it means for the Badgers going forward.

But wow, Ryan Evans, right?!

The development of Evans has been the premier storyline of the season. While Ben Brust has dazzled fans with the occasional shooting exhibition and others worry about Jordan Taylor's production, a certain flat-topped forward has been the most pleasantly consistent player on the team. Evans is passing the eye test as a junior and the numbers support what we think we are seeing.

Evans looks to keep up his early season pace tomorrow afternoon against Iowa in Wisconsin's Big Ten home opener. Has he built up his reputation only to start letting us down during league play? If Nebraska was any indication, the answer is no, but we'll take a deeper look.

The Hawkeyes, like the Huskers, are pretty poor by major conference standards. In addition, Iowa is not exactly bursting at the seems with lots of lengthy, athletic studs in the front court that have given Evans problems in games against BYU, North Carolina and UNLV. So I would expect Evans to have another nice performance.

Let's cut to the chase. We don't really care what Evans does against sub-150 teams in the Pomeroy rankings, because the Badgers will win those games regardless. (For the record, he is averaging 10.6 ppg & 6.9 rpg in those.) How is Evans doing against real competition?

Opponent Min FG-FGA (%) FT-FTA (%) Pts Reb Ast Blk Stl Foul TO
vs. BYU 26 1-4 (.250) 1-2 (.500) 3 4 2 1 0 1 0
@ UNC 34 5-13 (.385) 0-0 (.000) 10 7 0 3 0 0 1
Marquette 30 3-6 (.500) 2-2 (1.000) 8 8 1 2 3 3 2
UNLV 28 2-9 (.222) 3-6 (.500) 7 9 3 0 2 1 2
@ Milwaukee 36 5-8 (.625) 6-7 (.857) 16 8 1 2 0 0 0
@ Nebraska 36 9-11 (.818) 2-2 (1.000) 22 6 2 0 1 2 2
Totals 190 25-51 (.490) 14-19 (.736) 66 42 9 8 6 7 7
Average 31.7 4.2-8.5 (.490) 2.3-3.2 (.736) 11.0 7.0 1.5 1.3 1.0 1.2 1.2

Even against the big boys, if Evans has an off game, he is usually contributing in some way. Shooting poorly and the inability to get to the free throw line against the Tar Heels didn't stop Evans from blocking three shots. His nine rebounds, three assists and two steals certainly helped beat UNLV.

The truth is Evans plays more minutes against higher competition and rewards Bo Ryan by producing more too. Excellent. The guy has always been a high usage player and that has proved to be a positive for this particular team that lost one of its biggest playmakers to the NBA. Because more minutes are available due to the graduation of last year's entire frontline, Evans' production has risen across the board. But more importantly, his efficiency has skyrocketed.

While his offensive rating (113.7) ranks him just fifth among Badger regulars, Evans is right there with those above him. Think about this: Taylor has a lower offensive rating than Evans through 14 games. This is an astounding improvement over last season (82.4) when Evans actually regressed from his redshirt freshman year.

And Evans is always rebounding. At 6'6", Evans has equalled Jon Leuer's efficiency on the boards and is already a much better defensive rebounder than Keaton Nankivil ever was.

Evans has gotten much better in two areas: shooting percentage and turnover percentage. Those who watched closely last year noticed Evans had become pretty money at hitting the jumper from the elbows -- in fact he killed Purdue twice with it. As a junior he has been squaring up from all over the court and thus is able to hit the sideline jumper regularly as well. This ability adds a dangerous dimension to Wisconsin's offense. Evans has success driving to the hole, but also possesses a midrange game to partially compensate for the loss of Leuer. Evans also cut his turnover rate nearly in half. And when you watch him play, you will notice how he seems much less rushed than in previous years. He is making the right plays at the right time because of his patience.

Furthermore, Evans is assisting more, drawing more fouls and committing fewer himself [see KenPom - $]. Along with the rise in his measurable defensive statistics, it is clear that Evans is just the latest example of the great player development possible in UW's program.

Not many teams are focusing on Evans right now. Nor can they with Taylor, Brust and Jared Berggren lurking. But if Evans can remain an offensive threat, more attention to Evans will result in more opportunities for the perimeter guys, maybe even Taylor. And that is a very good thing.

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For more Wisconsin basketball coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.

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